The choice is theirs

Give children the freedom to use their imaginations, says Catherine Clark...

The use of open-ended resources in settings is often discussed. Many of us already have a rich collection, seeing them as resources that encourage child-initiated play and offer a diversity of outcomes, whilst more importantly supporting and enhancing a host of learning opportunities. It’s hard to single out specific resources worthy of recognition, but I do have some that I feel need to be omnipresent in any early years setting.

An obvious one is a good range of wooden blocks, for use indoors and out. The youngest children can explore them, utilising them for their schematic behaviours. Small world and construction play are obvious uses, but the beauty of a simple brick is that it can represent a car, a house, a phone, etc.

Beyond blocks, I also recommend the following:

• A box of various fabric lengths – for use in dens, or as dance accessories, dressing up clothes, etc.
• An accessible ‘junk box’ full of tubes, wood, string, boxes, pegs, tape, etc. – these can be turned into what-ever children are inspired to create. Empty boxes of all sizes are often favourites, becoming boats, cars, a stage and so on.
• A bumper collection of bowls, buckets, scoops, spoons, etc. – use them in the water, sand, the garden, the home corner, science investigations, maths challenges and more.

With open-ended resources, children’s imaginations are challenged that little bit more. Children need to be able to select and make their own choices and be empowered to do so. We’ve all seen how a stick can become a wand, a mark-making tool or part of a den – this versatility of use is key to open-ended resources. They can be the most simple of objects, but the most inspiring of learning tools.

Catherine Clark has worked in early years education for many years. She is the in-house educationalist at TTS, consulting, advising on how children learn, and has developed numerous award-winning products.